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John Jenkins Education. (2012) 'The Partisan The Life of William Rehnquist.' New.

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Rehnquist 37, Us 7, Adams 6, William Rehnquist 6, Berger 6, Washington 5, Douglas 5, Phoenix 5, Brown 4, Richard Nixon 4, United States 4, Texas 3, San Francisco 3, Brosnahan 3, Blackman 3, Naacp 3, Nixon Administration 2, Fbi 2, Wisconsin 2, Milwaukee 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV After Words    John Jenkins  Education.  (2012) 'The  
   Partisan The Life of William Rehnquist.' New.  

    October 6, 2012
    10:00 - 11:37pm EDT  

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and it's just not going to work. in which he stuck out for two years and did not come to any fruitful result. i know for a fact how hard he fought because occasionally we would be intouch for -- with him for some reason or another and there was always a guess about where he was going to be in if you would be able to respond. this one from hillary rodham clinton, secretary of state and the second letter of thanks from barack obama about the same topic. when he gives speeches and he says, people ask him what is your most memorable part of your career he says other people think the most memorable part of my career is the baseball scandal, the steroids in baseball. those records are not here. he was also involved in the 9/11 red cross fund distribution.
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those records were not here because he was working in the capacity of those organizations so whatever those files are -- so you wind up with congressional papers sometimes too. [inaudible] >> what the booktv all weekend to see more of our recent visit to augusta maine or go for more information on this and other cities visited a ibook to these local content vehicle go to c-span.org/local content. >> coming up, booktv% after words an hour-long program where we invite guest host to interview authors. this week, legal journalist john jenkins and his in his book, "the partistan" the life of william rehnquist. in it the publisher "cq" press details the early career and a 33 year supreme court tenure of the former chief justice. he talks with supreme court
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reporter and the biographer for justices o'connor and scalia, joan biskupic. >> host: welcome john jenkins. we are here to talk about your new book, "the partistan" the life of william rehnquist. i want to start with one general question to give our viewers a sense of who the chief justices and we william rehnquist was important. there've only been 17 chiefs, correct? tell us a little bit about the position. what's what's is the chief justice of the united states do in the importance of william rehnquist and then we will go into the chronology. yes go the chief has two roles in the judicial system. he is first the chief among equals on the court. he assigns the opinion when he was a majority and reach the discussion conference so he has a very poor girl to play among the nine justices. he is really the key guy there. particularly when he's in the majority but the other thing that rehnquist was is really the
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head of hired administration office of the courts, sort of runs the entire court system and that is a whole part of his administrative responsibilities that the other justices don't have so that is what a chief does. >> host: we will talk a little bit how he got into tha position but let's go back to the beginning. the suburb of milwaukee, born october 1 right around this time, 1924. his father was a paper salesman its mother with a homemaker but she was a dominant force in the household, right? tell me a little bit about mrs. rehnquist and a little bit about how she got him to change his middle name which was changing the course of his life. >> guest: well she was very superstitious in terms of the middle name. they named him william donald rehnquist when he was born on october 1 in 1924. and, his mother though
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believed -- though she was really a very fascinating woman. she spoke five languages in addition to english. don't ask me what those five languages were but there's a footnote in the book. she was very learned and very proud of her education at the university of wisconsin. does his father and his mother were wisconsin or is. they really hadn't traveled far at all and they were very, very middle-class folks in the depression and the father is a paper salesman. he had gotten through high school and he actually lost the family house. he was the breadwinner and a 1939 his house was sold at auction in wisconsin in this bucolic leafy suburb of milwaukee. it was sold for the debt that was on it which was $7000 of the family had been through some very dire straits. they were also very conservative. they were america firsters which
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meant they did not want america to be in world war ii. they were against the new deal and franklin roosevelt. they were very very conservative household. where that conservatism came on the parents part who knows except that it was pretty common i think when i was doing my research, pretty common, commonly found in that particular suburb at that time, the folks that i interviewed told me. when rehnquist was going into the army, just to jump up a little bit on the last name, when he was going into the army his mother who is very superstitious and rehnquist also was very superstitious -- and so his mother believed that if he had a last name -- >> host: a middle name. >> guest: a middle name, i'm sorry -- that started with h but that would be good luck for him and a
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numerologist actually told in that. he researches genealogy and found the edit ran mother and his mother side. he actually changed his name himself and he told harry blackmon who is a sea mate on the court, he wrote a note one day and said he had changed in high school but actually i think his recollection was probably incorrect because he changed when he signed up for the united states army in the early 1943 when he enlisted in the army. at that point, when asked what his middle name was he said hubs and that was his name. >> host: is so interesting because he did tell that story to reporters for the end of his life with the idea being that it made the difference and i remember one of my colleagues said he would have been just a justice of the peace rather than a chief justice of the united states without it. one more crucial move in his
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life after he leaves no walking goes to stanford law school is becoming a clerk to supreme court justice robert jackson. tell us a little bit about how that came about because i want it to lead into what you are unfolding here into this conservatism on blacks and whites. >> guest: right. jackson was i think seen by the end even as a great justice and he had been the prosecutor at the nuremberg war trial and it actually taken time off from the court and went to nuremberg as a chief prosecutor in and came back to the court so rehnquist graduates from the stanford law school early at the end of 1952. he was actually in class that would have graduated a semester later but rehnquist finishes working and was so smart he got out early. and so he wanted to -- it was clear when i was
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researching through his papers and looking at the diaries that he had actually, that were on deposit with his papers were fascinating. he had six notebooks that were filled with his reminiscences and his desires and early comments and memoirs and one of the things that was clear was that he really saw himself destined for some important job. he was actually on the court or probably certainly somewhere in government because he had asked himself as a student, yet actually written, what now honorable w. h. rehnquist with ap question mark. >> host: as a law school student. >> guest: as an early losses jude and -- law school student. really said that he had this feeling of almost deafening to be on the court when he was very
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young. but there was this confluence of events where jackson plays a role that allowed him to do that. he had a professor who had taken an interest in him and so the professor was friends with robert h. jackson and jackson was going to be coming out to stanford. you have to remember it was hard to get out there from washington in those days. >> host: we were in the early 50's. >> guest: it was hard to get out there and rare for someone from stanford. rehnquist was whip smart but it was hard for someone he wasn't in the ivy league to be a clerk on the court. it was very much an honor and it was hard. actually the justices in those days, jackson had been working with one clerk so maybe nine people or 10 or 11 people year are getting these clerkships coming out of the ivy league. >> host: am i remembering
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right that's just as jackson was in the groundbreaking for the law school? what ride them out there? >> guest: to things. what brought him out was the bohemian grill. there was this bohemian grove which is in a place called matzo rio california. i've actually worked on another story about the doheny and grove so i know that place well. it is a men's club, tall men, 2000 getting together at a summer camp and they do it every year. there is a boeheim em club in san francisco that hosted this concept of corporate decision-makers, government luminaries and diplomats. very important people in and probably the equivalent today of some of the big events, when you see folks and shirtsleeves rubbing elbows with each other. so jackson actually was coming out in august of that year to do
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that. and so, his professor said first he asked jackson would he come to the groundbreaking of the law school and then the professor surprise rehnquist by saying i will arrange for you to meet him. the interesting thing is that rehnquist did meet him and he met with jackson and jackson just kind of didn't even really interview him. rehnquist had a swedish ancestry, which he had talked about a lot and it was a talking point of his always. so jackson got off on this tangent of talking about his swedish clients that he had and told rehnquist some stories and rehnquist really didn't get a chance to really talk about himself very much. heated really think he had done a very good job in the interview and jackson thanked him and said it was nice to meet you and that was that. rehnquist doesn't hear anything now for a couple of weeks and so
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he starts getting worried and he writes a letter to jackson and he says he now i'm in my last semester of law school. i really have too kind to figure out what i want to do. he says i have got a number of interviews and offers he says in california. >> host: but that is not true right? >> guest: it doesn't look like it's drew but he said this. rehnquist later said it wasn't true. he confessed to jackson that it wasn't true so rehnquist said i need to make a decision so can you help me out here? it was really kind of smart on rehnquist's part and jackson comes back and he says, you know, i think we could use -- as jackson put it, a second man. i think we could use a second man and maybe by march of next year because i think the workload is going to be really hard for one man. in those days they were the
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clerks. so rehnquist petitioned andy said i could come earlier. i would like to be there in january so jackson says okay, in january and basically that was it. so rehnquist kind of the right man at the right time. the timing was perfect and rehnquist drives the school studebaker which he talks about in his memoir about the supreme court, he drives the studebaker out to washington with no heater and is caught in a blizzard that he gets there and he shows up at the court and he actually starts working. he is in awe of the supreme court and the corinthian columns in this great place. >> host: and that's a really big break for him. obviously he has proven himself academically, very smart, got into the school he applied for but here is that crucial time with justice jackson. also is something that haunts them for the rest of his career that has to do with his memos and the browned keyboard
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education case. why do you tell us what his role wasn't quite turned out to be controversial? >> guest: he wrote a lot of memos in those memos doubled out in stage in a very rough sequence over many years later. what he did, so he gets there and percolating up through the courts already going back to 1950 are the cases of the naacp legal and education defense fund that thurgood marshall is actually bringing and he is building at sort of brick by brick, block by block or go thurgood marshall not yet of course the justice of the supreme court. he is making the case that plessy versus ferguson and, which defined the acceptability of separate but equal, they are making the case to the naacp
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that this cannot be, cannot remain the law of the land and it is pretty clear that the case that is going to become a very important one for the court and it's actually a year that rehnquist is there is brown versus board of education. which turns out in fact to be the case that strikes that document down, very very important in a unanimous verdict, unanimous decision of the supreme court. so rehnquist, part of the role of a clerk is to offer his advice and opinions to his boss about these cases and so rehnquist writes a memo about brown versus board of education and he basically says that plessy should stand. rehnquist authors this memo and gives it to jackson. jackson doesn't --
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i am sure jackson read the memo but he puts it away and of course jackson is one of the nine justices who unanimously votes to strike down plessy versus ferguson in this very important case which finally is decided in 1954. it actually was we heard the year after and reargued again. >> host: it gets rid of separate but equal. >> guest: rehnquist was against the finding in the holding of that case. rehnquist believed as a supreme court clerk that was, the wrong outcome and he argued passionately. if you think back, when i was looking at his early years at stanford, it is clear that this is not something new. >> host: new to him. >> guest: this is not something it to him. in his firmament he believes that this plessy is right and
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should be affirmed as he says in the memo. there are some other cases and there are many cases at this point that are coming along that the court is having to decide whether to accept. there actually is another case that is a voting rights case in a discrimination case in that case is called terry versus adams so it also comes at the same year. the issue and terry is whether or not this club in texas, which is called the texas jaybird club, and it's a democratic club, democratic social club that if you are not a member of the club you cannot vote in the primary in essence and only white people are allowed to be in the texas jaybird club so the issue in that case is should they take this petition for certiorari and view the case? rehnquist writes to memos about terry versus adams basically saying that the right of free association and again this goes way back to the conservatism of
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his parents and such but he writes into more memos to douglas, to jackson, asserting very strongly that the right of free association is such that the supreme court should let this case go and leave it alone and also espousing some views that are basically he says it's about time we understand that white people and black people don't like each other and let's just move on. and so does memo is all of which are now in the archives of jackson, but those archives -- it's only when they start leaking out, the first one in 1971 the brown versus board of education in 1971 the terry versus adams emaus i reveal for the first time in an article in "the new york times." >> host: when you say 1971 that is when he is nominated the
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associate justice and that is when the browned emma's came out. let me ask you about the terry versus adams. you said it squarely on record as an ardent segregationist. you talk a lot about his error but many of the other clerks at the supreme court during this time were the same era. many of the justices were, all its justices were from a previous era. he seems to have taken his views a little further than maybe his parents held. what is your idea other than just the time and wisconsin was conservative but it didn't stand out in its conservatism. >> guest: you are absolutely right. i have thought so much about this and struggled over this really in terms of, i want to portray, i wanted to portray his life very accurately and fairly, pulling no punches but at the
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same time not landing them if they are not deserved and so i think that, so i thought about it a lot. the issue for rehnquist was he believes so passionately in individual freedom and in his day i don't even know whether the phrase libertarian was one that was bandied about that much but really that is where he was coming from. i think that his views which i say in the book were clearly racist, segregationist even by the standards of the time in considering the standards of the time they were certainly more extreme and he went out of his way to -- we haven't yet talked about his time in phoenix but i hope we get back to that because he went out of his way when he moved to phoenix to practice law after his clerkship to really pick fights with the other side over this. he really wanted to make a strong case because he believes
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so passionately and was an ideologue but also idealistic about individual freedoms and that is why think he did this. i say that he was really an unconscious -- this was an unconscious racism. if it was racism that was unconscious on his part. he was probably, couldn't possibly be aware, so self-aware at that time of how we would be perceived. later, clearly he understands wow i was really out there and then he has another problem because by the time he is nominated in 1971 he is clearly well-qualified on his position on the court. he has got some explaining to do about the 60's in the 50s and it's how he handles back that i think is actually as revealing as anything at this point. >> host: okay then let's close the loop on that a four week of back to chronology and that is his testimony in 1971 when he is
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nominated to be an associate justice on the supreme court by richard nixon and elevated to chief justice by ronald reagan. both times these memo's come up, both times he outright denies the sentiment you are describing and you basically portray him as outright lying. do you think william rehnquist ever faced that lie or was he in denial even as he got further? >> guest: i think he was in denial. i think he was in denial. the situation in 1971 is that the hearing record is basically closed. he is testifying -- he is so slick and smart and excellent and his questions both in 1971 and again when he is nominated to become chief justice. the senators birch bikeby, ted canady, joe biden, they don't
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lay a hand on him early and so he is so excellent that perry and these questions and the hearing record of 71 is closed and suddenly shortly before the vote is to take place on rehnquist and also one lewis powell who is was up at the same time, shortly before that the vote is to occur but after the hearings are closed "newsweek" magazine, the supreme court reporter for "newsweek," really great guy, he comes up somehow with this memo from the jackson files, the memo relating to brown versus board of education and it's a bombshell. and so, birch by, the senator from a very liberal and a great senator from indiana at that time, birch bias at this point leading the fight against rehnquist. he is leading the liberal fight against rehnquist and they know it's going to be close and they
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probably know it's going to go down -- but it's close. he starts really pushing in the publicity starts coming out and nixon and his attorney general john mitchell who actually have kind of concocted this whole rehnquist nomination as a whole nother story there that is fascinating. so nixon and mitchell start to worry that they are going to lose this pr battle and things go kits south. nixon had a lot of trouble getting his nominees confirmed on just such a basis as this. so rehnquist professes that he actually doesn't remember this memo. that is possible. because he does not remember it he could be unconsciously or very consciously believing that he wrote it as he said at the time he explained that this was just as jackson's request or summation of his view, not of my
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own. now that actually, there was no one there that could rebut that even though there were opinions expressed both ways. rehnquist was not under oath so he submitted a letter to the chairman at that point of the judiciary committee and said this is my recollection. it was just as jackson views that i was espousing, not my own. >> host: remind people that this was after the hearing in 1971 so the jackson supporters are not able to come through and say this never would have been history. >> guest: right and the hearings are closed. birch bayh one of the hearings reopened and they were not reopened so what happened is he manages to skate on that. he probably lost some votes but he manages to skate and he is approved by a vote of my recollection, 68-26 which is a lot of foes at that time. there have been nominees who had not been approved but for someone to be approved, usually it was unanimous but it was far
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from unanimous and i think probably that stung a little bit. rehnquist did get onto the court and he managed to escape past that because the memo came in late and it was not under oath and he could say, and he probably very well believed it, i don't remember this and it must have been justice jackson so that is what he did. it comes up again later in 1986 because now we have the memo all over again and now the naacp can't bring in the folks who hadn't testified before to just -- testified for the other side of and by then also you have the terry versus adams memo and when you start looking at his act to the days in phoenix during the 1960's, very conservative and against public accommodation laws and such. his outspoken opposition to integration and the memo not only is round but then terry
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v. adams and the other writings that he did and it begins to look like suddenly a preponderance of evidence in 1986 that he in fact probably very much was lying about this if he even remembered it but it was his views. >> host: let me ask you real quick because we only have a few minutes in the segment but he somehow is able to sort of skate by some of these tough questions by senator edward canady who at this point is controlling a lot of the opposition to him in 1986, the senator from massachusetts of course and because of his political smarts having worked in the justice department which we will get to, he can control it more than usual. tell us about how he was able to elude these kinds of questions and did he know what he was doing? >> guest: he simply said repeatedly you know i am sorry,
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i just don't have any recollection of this at all. he did not allow himself to start going down this slippery slope. maybe i did and maybe i didn't. let me think about this. he simply categorically denied any recollection. i just don't have a recollection of this and there was, it's fascinating and fbi agent named james brosnahan who i spoke to for this book. i called him up. he was a great witness for the opposition because he gets to the fbi agent that have been called to the scene in phoenix in 1960's during the election when william rehnquist was interviewing with voters and brosnahan said look -- he was a very well-known and respected lawyer by thin in san francisco and brosnahan said i was there and i was the fbi agent on the scene.
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i positively identify him as the man. discouraging black voters. rehnquist was giving them a literacy test and which was not illegal but it was, but he was really pushing the line to the point where the police and the fbi had to be called to restore order. and rehnquist simply said, that was not made. >> host: kind of a case of mistaken identity so james brosnahan comes to washington and puts a lot on the line. >> guest: puts a lot on the line and really just kind it gets hammered because in the end he is not left with anything that really he can grab onto to come back at rehnquist. rehnquist simply says i just can't explain it. it's just not me and that was very i thought, very typical i think of when i met with rehnquist's 10 years later. very very typical of the way that he carried a question that he did not want to answer and that is what happened.
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>> host: vaccinating and if i remember right whenever james brosnahan who is still a lawyer in san francisco would come before the supreme court william rehnquist would recuse himself from the case. let me just finish with one other thing and then we are going to take up rate. you referred to his time in phoenix and then he comes to washington d.c. with the justice department. right after nixon was elected in 1968. >> guest: rehnquist went back to phoenix and he decides that he jumps into everything he can possibly join to become a better-known, business getting attorney and he is extremely successful by the way, very little known are the amount of wealth he is able to amass by the standards of that time. he is very successful. ..
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is really smart, this guy is smart and he opposes it at first. we don't need more than one cow boy one cowboy is enough. >> host: from arizona. >> guest: one cowboy from arizona is enough. but persuades him to bring him to the hotel in new york where the campaign headquarter is and the transition headquarter, and renner qis comes in and leaves
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meeting with the private meeting with michelle and he has the job. >> host: the second big break. robert jackson. pick up after this. >> host: thank you. on the go? after words is available via pod cast. visit booktv.org and put pod cast on the upper left side of the page. select which one you would like to download and listen to after words while you travel. >> host: welcome back. we're going pick up on the crinnology of william who was the 16th chief justice of the united states. let me ask you a couple of questions about you and how you decided to write the book. i know, you did a piece in 1985, but here we are in 2012. i know, it didn't take you that long. gail: no.
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>> host: tell us about why you decided to do it at this point. >> guest: well in in 1985, i was assigned this story by the "times" and i met with him twice in interviews in 1988. it was kind of an interesting. i wrote him a letter and introdews myself. he had not given any interviews at all. and we weren't sure whether he would accept it or not. he sent a letter back right away. and he said you know, why don't you come in and we'll get to know each other a little bit better and i'll decide if i want to cooperate. i vowed i'm going go in with the tape reporter and the questions and be fully prepared. i'll let them throw me out. we had two good meets. time goes by, during my research for the times, my editor at the time was encouraging me, dig,
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dig for the origins of the conservativism. what is that? there's got to be more here. this guy is wired from birth almost as a arch conservative, dig hard for that, john. and so i did. and i think i did a incredible jobbed with information available. but after his death and the availability of papers it took stanford -- hef had given the paper to stanford university. >>to the hoover institution. >> guest: at stanford. consider conservativeism institution and he puts restrictions on the papers that he probably wouldn't have been able to do as many justices do to the library of congress. so throw years after his death, the papers become available. that's probably 2008. and so i knew that i needed to jump on that. and be the one to go through
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those papers and hopefully find something that would help me tell the story of this man. and the papers were just a vast trove. the case documents are still largely locked up because one of the considerations he has is that no paper can be available relating to court cases when any justice participated is still alive. john paul stevens comes on the court as an appointee of gerald ford and is still alive. there are a lot of cases that are not open. the cases from the first few years were. i was more interested in the personal papers with, the letters to his children, the letters to his family. the diaries. the bocks had made notes about. it's fascinating and thousand upon thousands of files that are out there at the hoover
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institution. >> host: that's great. several of the justice had opened their papers. powell who kept note that william wrote to him. and blackman. >> guest: every note and the entirety of the notes is out there. blackman put no restrictions out. and powell's papers are washington university, his the cure rate of the papers they are technically not supposed to be open. the cure cure raters are helpful . >> of i was very pleased. i have to thank them for those powell documents because that show i william as did the papers of blackman and the papers of douglas showed a side of renner qis that was important. >> host: they both come on the supreme court of january of
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1972. they are sworn in. tell us about at role he played in the own selection when he comes to washington where we left off in the first segment. he comes with richard he becomes an assistant general and he starts have a having ahand in supreme court nominees. low and behold in fall of 1971, he becomes one. >> guest: yes. he is the person that is at the justice department put in charge by large a vetting nominee. the nixon administration nominee to the court. and the record on this is actually very mixed, i have to say. and so -- >> host: in terms who ends up vetting successfully. >> guest: who ends up vetting successfully and some of the things he let slip through unfortunately that god or bad he is taking the fall for and the responsibility for. so as i mentioned nixon, richard
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nixon had come on to the presidency with a commitment to appoint conservative southerners to the court. that one of the campaign promises. hard for us to think about this today, but nixon was a complex man in the own right. that was one of the thing he had done. and so here in the department of justice is supposed to be helping him find the guys. and the very first two vacancy, first two mom thoughs that go up to the court of haynesworth and harled cars well, both whom failed to get -- to be confirmed and he takes the fall for that. he had vetted the both and passed them as qualified and they got hammered during the hearing. by the time another vacancy comes up. nixon is getting this amazing con influence of four vacancy in
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the first term. it's amazing. they are coming up at the same time. two very early in the presidency and then two more -- >> host: with -- >> guest: and black and harlan within a couple of of each other. nixon was looking to replace black, but he certainly he was hope hoeing could heap harlem. harlem was elderly and blind and had at love issues. by this time, nixon and his attorney general have decided they're going take it over themselves. they can't run the risk, they have another important job for him at the point with the two new vacancy. he is supposed to be running a committee to declassify documents annixon in his diabolical efforts he believes that renner qis doesn't know
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that. when the white house tapes come out. the reason he wants him to do this he believes if he can get these documents declassified, he can sort of use them to bang the image of the kennedy family. particularly bob kennedy and jfk and even ted kennedy. who he sees as a potential rival in the coming election. and nixon, the declassification he wants him to handle it so he can leak e documents out. it turns out he doesn't go fast enough, nixon and his other folks decides they're going to make up the documents and leak them anyway. that's another thing. what happens is he is busy over there doing that. men while nixon are trying to two find two people to announce. >> host: it's all in the fall of 1971. >> guest: he wants do it fast
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before the '72 elections and he knows that time is the enemy. getting the jump on someone fast after these vacancy comes out what he needs to do. and someone has the brilliant idea actually fred moore in the white house, he sells the idea -- >> host: dick more? dick moore. there was a fred moore. >> host: not this this case. >> guest: he has the brilliant idea that he is the go. -- he is going to be a guy that can be on the court for thirty years or many. of course is exactly what happened. they plant the seed with nixon, mitchell, you can listen to the tape and you hear mitchell and nixon is rolling around in his mind and he first he doesn't really like the idea. but he warms to it because he's got it deadline. he wants to make a speech. and actually ten hours before the speech, he decides he is the
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man along with louis powell. >> host: that's fascinating. you mention the tapes. which any one of our viewers can get the archive. you put in the cassette and make a copy. and hearing richard nixon get jealous when he is told the other guy was so smart. maybe it wasn't as hard at stanford than duke. john mitchell is talking about how smart william was, you know, first in the class and also having clerked for justice jackson. now he's on the court. he gets on the court and this is what you write, under william's view of the constitution state officials could arrest gay people, they could stop women from having abortion they couldn't give the slightest preference to african-american students seeking admission to
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state university. that's a timely remind since the court is about to take it up. tell me about the legacy on the law. >> guest: well, william's legacy, i think, first of all, is that he made it a very we pave the way for ideological conservative and liberals to be acceptable as members of the court. not so much the opinions like browne and the -- or even roe in the era of berger. because there aren't to my mind, anyway, opinions of william are particularly memorable but don't take my word for it. i asked william what are your memorable opinions and he said,
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you know, i don't have any memorable opinions. nothing really comes to my mind as become particularly memorable. and i think that's an honest answer and accurate answer. >> host: that was in 1985. you probably could suspect it in 2005. >> guest: i grow with you. he would have said it in 2005 as much. i think the legacy is. he came on the court with a agenda. it was the partisan agenda. it was the title of the "new york times" story. as you know, i wrote the story, i don't get to title it but i thought it was accurate. and i remember asking him during my interviews with him, do you consider yourself a partisan and he said yes, i am a partisan. he was unabashedly a partisan. the legacy, i think, is that he knead acceptable to be a partisan on the court. and if you lock at the public
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opinion polls to trace what the public thinks of the court i think that during prior chief justices the court is the one constitution that is above the fray the court is one constitution above the fray. and that has changed. that is clearly changed. you can trace the sense of what the public feels about the institution of the court. they see it politicized. >> host: let me ask you how he got to it and a little bit more about the legacy after we talk about some of the work on the court. he was consistent in the areas that you cite, in terms of racial remedies, no. in terms abortion rights, no. you suggest it wasn't just the idea of the constitution then. you talk about the political
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influence. was there also something larger in terms of his idea of society. was it, you know, the kind of basic conservative thaifm you trace back to shorewood. it was a collection of factors rather than the constitution, frankly? >> guest: i think that william had a world view that was set as a very, very young man. i had the opportunity when she was still alive in 1980s to speak to his english teach, with ever charlotte, who told me, the thing that he she rent this is really -- remembered as i'm starting my research. tell me about the guy. one of his teachers is -- >> host: at the high school. >> guest: yeah. and so she her comment was, you know, this was a young man who was very, very sure of himself. and conservative and very, very conservative even then. very, traditional in his beliefs. and yes, i think that what when
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william confronted a case, he did not look at the prior president and say, let's see what my prior colleagues thought about this. let's see what past courts thought and i'll be guide bid that. he was guided very much by as he put, what's on the doorstep at this point, quote, unquote. what's on the doorstep by the own personal views of it. yes, i think he was a very traditional, conservative person who brought that to his view of a case, and keep in mind he had read the road to serf come in the army. he quit college, he quit college after one semester joined the army and started read thing great books. he viewed it as the single most important book he ever read.
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which is the defining libertarian philosophy. >> host: it's a contrast the very supersmart, self-taught intense reader who can be first in whatever class he goes to. he can knock off work at 3:00 today. very quick. i found him able to have deep memories for facts, all sorts of trivia and important things. >> guest: opera. >> host: yes. geography, anything you name it. but yet yes had had the traffial pursuit that you made a deal out you have a cannotten the boar dome factor. i found letters that william wrote while he was sitting on the bench hearing cases for pom when powell was out sick. it's like a kid in eighth grade geography. passing a note to someone. it it is at the u.s. supreme court. tell me why you devoted an
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entire chapter to the boredom factor. when what do you make of it when you crassty contrast it to the brainy individual. > guest: i thought i needed to explain why he did the other things i think the dore come, i think the title of the chapter, and i did title the chapter "bored at the court." there was no doubt in my mind he wasn't challenged by much of the work. he had been warned about this by bill douglas. he took him under his wing and they were so ideologically opposite and yet bill douglas believed that as a young man coming on the court, he was 7 when he came to the court. douglas even younger when he was mom nominated by fdr. you have to have a lot of other pursuits. ic that if william was bored, i
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think if he had not been nominate to be the chief, he needed vast stimulus, really, because he was so smart. and so i think that if he had not been nominated to be chief, it's clear to me going back and reading my interview transcript with him he would have retired. he would have retired in 1989. had he mentioned that, i specifically said, are you ready to retire. and this is end of 1984, a lot of things changed after that. he was nominated in '86. at that point, i will be when i reach the age of 65, in 1989 with more than fifteen years of service on the court, i intend to leave and he could take decide to take cases if he wanted. take a senior status. he would be making a full salary. i want to do other things. i think he would have bored stiff teaching by the way. he was trying to write novels.
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he would have been -- and i think personally fascinated by this and i read the novels because they're in his papers and so he was trying to become the first justice, the secret and very quite but the first justice ever to write a novel. it never happened. you check. it still has never happened according to the archive i guess. he went to douglas for help because douglas had written over fifty books and hundreds of articles. he was just a writing machine. it was non-fiction. he was a writing machine because he so many al mown any payments to make. he had been married four times. william saw this and douglas too many him under the wing and introduced hill to a agent, robe who is the at that time probably the number one talent agent in hollywood at that time and also
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a greater author's agent and lance introduced him to the whole different world of hollywood and the new york literary saloons and those came to make him uncomfortable. in the beginning, he was very taken with it. >> yeah. >> host: certainly many per suits off the bench. one final question having to do with court work and some address some points you make overall. this it 1986 when he decides to stay because obviously he gets amazing opportunity to be the chief justice of the united states. a surprise move he dsdz he wants to head up the constitutional anniversary commission, and ronald reagan basically in the same position that richard nixon was by default ends up with william. tell us a little bit about that. >> guest: well, berger, warren berger has been chief jussist since 19 of the he's 79 years
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old and he is the chairman of the by centennial. and berger so many people have certainly not the first one made the point he looked like a chief justice that came out of -- >> host: yes. >> guest: and very booming baritone. he loved the ceremonial. he loved the ceremony of the office in a way that william never did. he loved the administrative management side of it. and thought he was good at it. but he just had a thing for the constitutional bicentennial. he asked for a meeting with william and reagan. and berger, reagan's people think that berger is probably going ask for more money for the bisentinel. he believes it's underfunded. they debate whether or not to allow him to meet with reagan. reagan decides to meet with him
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as a courtesy. berger comes in and about twenty minutes in to the discussion he's having with with the president, he drops the bomb shell he's going to resign. and so they have been waiting for this, and now it is upon them. the political guys in the reagan white house, which includes ed northeast among others who is reagan's good friend. now he's the new attorney general. and so ed has a short list at the top of the short list is william. because ed believes that william will do exactly what nixon believed he would do as an associate justice and he's right. that william will come in with an agenda to reverse the -- what the reagan white house sees as the excesses of the warren and the berg are courts.
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>> host: the reagan administration was more vigorous in the pursuit of that angle. >> guest: yes. >> host: than the nixon administration. there was anybody who would be have been contention against william to be chief justice in 1986? >> guest: i think sandra day 0'connor, actually, you wrote a book about her. i actually think that at some point a lot of people were discussing 0'connor from the moment she came on the court, i think, as a potential chief justice. whether there was anyone mids the reagan administration that considered that, i don't know. but i know that there were many that thought that could work. ultimately i think that when they looked at 0'connor they saw that was just -- she had the human quality about her that she unpredickble. okay. >> host: they didn't like
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unpredictability. >> guest: reagan knew that william was going to be predictable. there were urinal suspects, robert was out there the the time. and conceivably could be have been considered. this this case. it was william to lose and so it was -- they didn't have anybody else on the list that the point. he came in and of course, whatever thought he had or might have had about retiring is right -- here's a any challenge. even though soon after he gets there he writes to his family, he writes to one of his children that he loathes the administrative burden that is on him. he doesn't know how he's going to handled it. >> host: he turned out to be pretty good at it . glig very good, actually. >> host: you wanted to quote, set the record straight. what are some of the most common misunderstanding about william? >> guest: well, at antidot tal stories about william when he
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was alive because it's easy to make these touch stone for a story. they went back to his practical jokes. and he was a practical joker. sometimes i think there was a little malice to the -- often i think a little bit of malice in the practical joking. but -- i really, as journalist covering william, i -- one of the things i kind of disliked about some of the coverage was it stopped there. so practical joking a few ante-dotes would be used to say here is a guy who is -- i think one of the myths he was jovial and sort of personalble thwart the justices. now i will say this, the evidence in his papers, and i --
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and that's what i'm using as my guide. i think they are very, very -- the evidence that he had mixed relations charles thomas said he could get things done with a grair. i felt that as an interviewer. in my few times that i actually sat across from him. you could feel when you offended him. he would let you now. i think he was complex than some of the little stories would lead us to believe. >> finally, let's look forward, because one thing we haven't mentioned which is important about william he hired a man by the name of job roberts who our chief justice of the united states. and william hired him to be a law clerk to him when he was an associate justice.
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john roberts ended up serving in the ronald reagan and bush administration at the point to the supreme court in 2005 to succeed william after he died from the think ready cancer. what is the legacy that you believe that william gave to john robert, do you see in the same? i see him as the natural heir. >> >> host: in the same partisan thing. >> guest: absolutely in the same partisan thing. roberts ask roberts is a a more deft partisan. he's also actually, if you believe the academics and you believe, and i do, the their methodology and their analysis of the record, he's actually more conservative than william. ro
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